I was watching the latest video by Amy Landino on Youtube, she’s all about efficiency and stuff – full disclosure because I’m going to tell her I’ve writtent this, I don’t watch all her videos all the way through because, well, I’m not really driven enough (sorry, Amy), but she is fun and has interesting stuff to say. So in the latest one she talks about Insta-Envy, which I think may be a new linguistic coinage. The idea that if scrolling though Instagram makes you feel envious rather than motivated, then stop doing it and be more careful about whom you pick to follow. It’s good advice. Instagram is famous as a giant highlight reel, full of people picking out (or setting up and photographing) the best moments of their lives to appear beautifully lit and post-processed for the enjoyment of their followers. Or sometimes to generate followers who can then, if not enjoy them, at least keep following and producing that all powerful thing…..ta da…engagement.
Ohhhkay Amy, I’m with you. But this led me to wonder something about Insta-Envy; why don’t I have it?
The thing is, I follow a number of folks on my Instagram accounts (yes, I have two), people who take photographs I like on one and people who take photographs of gardens I like on the other. I can lose time scrolling both of them which Amy would almost certainly, and correctly, tell me I could be using more profitably. But I never find myself envious in the sense that it upsets me or gets me down. Sure I wish I had that greenhouse, or a witch hazel like that, or could photograph in that location, or in that light. But never in the sense that I feel less happy with my own work or lose motivation. I mean I do feel unhappy with my own work, but I’d feel that without social networking to help me, every artist, photographer, musician, whatever feels unhappy with their own work, it’s the nature of the beast.
So I’ve been thinking about this, first off it’s not that I’m unusually self-confident and robust I’m sure. I think it’s down to three things, and one of them is pretty much in line with Amy’s idea of who you should follow. I follow people on Instagram because I enjoy their work. The thing which links everybody I follow on both my accounts is that I scroll through and think ‘great work on that photo’ and my choice of words here is important, it’s not the place, or the model or the other stuff, it’s the work. It’s the thought and effort which went into the image which impresses me. Some, ok much, of it is work on a level to which I just will never aspire, and I’m happy with that. Some sparks ideas of places or techniques I’d like to try out, or lets me (and this is one of the best bits) connect with other people because I like to make new online friends. The second is that I think as a photographer, I’m very aware of the fact that what I’m seeing is a crafted image. I know it’s not somebody living a wonderful life, I know it’s somebody who picked that window for the light, or that dress because it works with the colour palatte they wanted to achieve. I can tell a photo which didn’t just happen. The third thing I think is age, I come from before the Internet, and even before people had computers – heck when I was at school we didn’t even learn what a computer was and then when I left school I spent years in public-facing roles. I’ve met a lot of people, some of whom did live in lovely houses, and go on great foreign trips and the rest of it, but I also know they took their bins out, walked the dog and shouted at their kids. They had lovely cars, which broke down. They lived in lovely places and their neigbours were snobby gits. Deep down I know that nobody, but nobody actually lives the showreel life.
So, my suggestions for avoiding Insta-Envy, because well I’m allowed my brief excursion into being a self help and motivation guru am I not?
- Follow people because you like their work, because their photos make you happy / impressed / inspired / whatever
- As a photographer, you know that the camera never tells the whole truth
- Be as old as dirt